The spotlight was on one of the most significant global advances in livestock vaccination at this year’s Royal Highland Show as part of the RHASS Presidents’ Initiative.
Scottish scientists developed the vaccine, which has transformed herd and flock health for farmers worldwide for over a quarter of a century.
Developed at the Moredun Institute by Professor Willie Donachie and his research team, the Mannheimia (Pasteurella) haemolytica vaccine owes its success to the novel discovery that to survive, the bacteria needed to be able to access iron.
From this, he developed a new technique that significantly reduced the occurrence of pneumonia in lambs and calves.
Although a vaccine existed previously, it was not effectively immunising against all 15 strains of Pasteurella.
The transformation came from Professor Donachie’s understanding of the disease pathogenesis.
In ground-breaking experiments comparing laboratory-grown bacterial cells (in vitro) with those recovered from a live animal (in vivo) with pneumonia, he saw that the in vivo-grown cells contained extra proteins.
Further investigation showed these proteins were instrumental in the bacteria acquiring iron.
The proteins, Iron Restricted Proteins (IRPs), represented potential vaccine components.
Fundamentally, he recognised that if the vaccine cells could be grown to produce IRPs replicating the conditions in the sheep’s body, it would trigger a protective immune response in the live animal.
The vaccine was patented and developed commercially in partnership with Hoechst Animal Health.
The main royalties from the patent were dedicated to funding future research and development at the institute.
A proportion was also shared between the core research team and all staff working at Moredun at the time.
Officially launched in 1997 as part of a multivalent vaccine that also immunises against clostridial diseases, the vaccine is recognised worldwide as one of the most significant contributors to sheep and cattle health.
Professor Donachie, who went on to be deputy director of Moredun Research Institute and MD of Moredun Scientific, was awarded an OBE in 2016 for services to animal and veterinary biosciences.